He says he’s proud and honoured to have had his 32 years of working in the retail food industry acknowledged by the awards, which are run by the University of Auckland Business School. “I’m also hopeful that my win will serve as inspiration to others of what can be achieved with a bit of focus and the right attitude,” says Witehira.
Witehira’s rise up the supermarket ladder started right at the bottom, stacking produce as a 16-year-old school leaver at New World Edmond Road in Rotorua, in 1984. Within two years, he’d been promoted to produce department manager, and in 1998 he became a supermarket owner, acquiring the New World Taumarunui. In 2001, Jason and his wife, Kimiora, bought the New World at Botany Town Centre. Then, in 2010, moved to New World Victoria Park, which is located in the heart of Auckland City.
In an emotional acceptance speech, Witehira said success is about “being an individual and believing in yourself.” Witehira believes that if you stay true to yourself and true to your company values you will succeed.
“I always knew I could run a store, and I tried hard to listen to those who were already doing it and took their advice on board,” he adds.
Among his mentors, Witehira names other Foodstuffs owner-operators including Leo O’Sullivan (PAK’nSAVE Petone), Russ Wilkinson (New World Mount Roskill) and Rob Redwood (PAK’nSAVE Glen Innes). “All three have had a big influence on my career path and success – all in different ways and all at different stages throughout my career.”
For Witehira though, none of this would have happened without his family, “it’s whānau that’s the key to my success”. “My wife and business partner, Kimiora, is my greatest mentor, having helped build all three stores, so this award is half hers.”
“Through my children, too, I’ve learnt the art of patience and perseverance, and it’s a real pleasure having my sons working with me now.”
Witehira insists, however, that this win isn’t just his and his whānau’s to celebrate.
“There are many great people out there that are successful in their own right without the accolades I have received.”
Foodstuffs North Island Ltd CEO, Chris Quin, says the company is thrilled to see one of its members honoured in such a way. “Once again we see someone who has started their career in a supermarket being recognised as a leader not only within our organisation, but in the wider business community, and for New Zealand’s future.”
“He really is a true inspiration to all our hard working staff, and lives the purpose of making sure New Zealanders get more out of Life” says Quin.